International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States

views updated


INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS V. UNITED STATES, 431 U.S. 329 (1977), a Supreme Court decision that involved the employer T.I.M.E.-D.C., Inc., a national common carrier of motor freight, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union representing a large group of employees. The federal district and circuit courts held that T.I.M.E.-D.C. had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against African Americans and Spanish-surnamed Americans. The lower courts also held that the union had violated the act by cooperating with the employer to create and maintain a seniority system that perpetuated past discrimination.

On appeal, the Supreme Court agreed with the government that the company had engaged in a systemwide practice of minority discrimination in violation of Title VII. The Court denied, however, the government's claim that the union's seniority system, which was exempt from Title VII, also violated the provision because it perpetuated discrimination. The Court also rejected the notion that victims suffering discriminatory acts prior to Title VII qualified for judicial relief under it.

In dissenting opinions, Justices Thurgood Marshall and William J. Brennan argued that the law granting exemption to seniority plans was not "plainly and unmistakenly clear" regarding perpetuation of discrimination, and thus the union's seniority system should not be protected. The Court's decision provided broad immunity to seniority plans that are on their face neutral, even if they perpetuate the effects of past discrimination.


Kleinman, Kenneth. "Seniority Systems and the Duty of Fair Representation: Union Liability in the Teamsters Context." Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 14, no.3 (Fall 1979): 711–782.

Schlei, Barbara Lindemann, and Paul Grossman. Employment Discrimination. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: American Bar Association, BNA Books, 1983.

TonyFreyer/a. r.

See alsoAmerican Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations .

About this article

International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States

Updated About content Print Article


International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States